Despite strong first and second installments in the franchise, the law of diminishing returns struck hard in Christopher Reeve's later Superman films. By the time Superman IV: The Quest for Peace rolled around, the filmmakers had replaced charming naïveté and a light touch with tooth-grinding repetition and a tiresome social agenda. Clearly over-identifying with his signature character, Reeve stepped up to the plate with a co-credit for original story (as well as a second-unit directorial bow). Perhaps, then, the film's star himself is to blame for the lameness of the plot, which involves an overly literal take on the superhero-as-global-savior routine. Over-the-top villains have often been the bane of superhero blockbusters, from Danny DeVito's shtick in Batman Returns to Willem Dafoe's scenery-chewing in Spider-Man. Here, though, Mark Pillow plays Nuclear Man 2 like the stupid walking high concept that he is; he barely makes an impression. As for the returning cast of veterans, only Gene Hackman gives any inkling that he'd like to earn his paycheck if given the opportunity by the powers that be. Otherwise, we've seen it all before. The essential silliness of continuing to hide Superman's secret identity as Clark Kent -- even from Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), the woman he loves -- lends many of the ostensibly funny scenes all the comedic force of a declining sitcom in its final season. In short, anyone but the most devoted Mariel Hemingway fan should avoid this film at all costs.